The Locker Room

June 30, 2010

Where will they get the money for the Treasurer's race?

Posted by Becki Gray at 5:10 PM

Rick and Daren explain the problems with Senate Bill 20 which will extend taxpayer funded campaigns to the State Treasurer's race.  Where will the money come from?  The taxpayer, of course. 

The taxpayer has two separate checkoffs on their income tax return.  One for the political parties. One for $3.00 for the Public Financing Fund.  It's the second one, for Public Financing, that the income ($2.50 of the $3.00) is being temporarily redirected from the fund for judicial campaigns to the Voter-Owned Elections fund for 2 years and will be used to fund the State Treasurer's race for candidates who choose to milk, oops, use the system.  When the judicial fund runs short, they'll take it from the General Fund, funded by.....the taxpayer.

Spin it anyway you want, it's still Taxpayer Funding for political campaigns. And it's still a bad idea.

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H1260: Well intentioned? Most likely. Excessive? Absolutely.

Posted by Sara Riggins at 5:00 PM

Today, the North Carolina House voted to pass H1260 "Amend Felony Firearm Act/Clarify Britt Case", which is an effort to address the 2009 North Carolina Supreme Court decision in Britt v. North Carolina

In that case, the court reviewed a complete and permanent ban on non-violent felons owning firearms and, more specifically, how that ban applied to an ex-felon named Barney Britt. The legislature passed this ban in 2004. 

In 1979, Barney Britt was convicted of a non-violent felony of drug possession with the intent to sell. In the 30 years following his crime, Mr. Britt had not committed any other crimes and had even owned firearms for 17 years, before the 2004 ban prohibited him from doing so. After the prohibition was enacted, Britt complied and surrendered his firearms to authorities. The Court found that the ban was unconstitutional as it applied to Mr. Britt, due in large part to his long personal history of non-violence. 

Following that decision, Daren wrote a spotlight, which showed how the actions taken by the General Assembly in 2004 were excessive in curtailing constitutional rights. Daren's conclusion was to recommend that "the legislature… take action in the 2010 legislative short session to change the law in response to Britt to prevent other ex-felons from having their constitutional rights violated by this overbroad law." 

While the House should be applauded for seeking to address the Britt decision, the attempt made in H1260 is still overly excessive, mandating that non-violent felons with a single offense wait a full 20 years after having their rights restored before being able secure their right to bear arms. The permanent ban remains in place for those with two or more offenses. 

While recognizing that curtailing the rights of violent felons may in many cases be appropriate, an outright prohibition on non-violent felons' right to bear arms simply goes too far. Prior to 1995 (as Daren previously noted), "North Carolina generally placed no such restrictions on non-violent ex-felons." 

The new recommendation? If there must be a ban, make it a ban on legislative efforts that truly are overly excessive in curtailing the constitutional rights of non-violent felons -- or anyone else. 

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Election Reform Legislation Debated today in Committee

Posted by Becki Gray at 2:33 PM

The House Election Law Committee took up SB716 Omnibus Campaign Finance Law Changes this afternoon, stripped it and replaced with "2010 Ethics and Government Reform Changes.

They added a Voter Owned Election Commission that will study numerous things which include: continuation of TPFC- case law and constitutional issues, revolving door restrictions, prohibition and restrictions on contributions, personnel records, contribution, NC OpenBook (which looks a lot like, gift ban clarification, mediation of public record disputes, and more.

The same committee also took up the bill SB20 Voter-Owned Election for Treasurer. A PCS for SB 20 was introduced, which will use “check off money” to pay for treasurer's race.  General Fund appropriations and "voluntary donations made directly to the Fund" are listed as sources of funding too but they failed to mention that. It also expands municipal TPFC to pilot programs in cities of more than 50,000 chosen by SBOE

Debate on SB 20 will continue 15 minutes after session in House Election Law Committee.

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Cook moves Kissell-Johnson race to "toss up"

Posted by David N. Bass at 2:32 PM

The Cook Political Report, the gold standard for national election analysis, has moved North Carolina's 8th Congressional District race between incumbent Democrat Larry Kissell and Republican Harold Johnson into the "toss up" category.

Until recently, Cook categorized the race as “leaning” Democrat. In the interim, though, Johnson won a runoff against loose-canon candidate Tim D’Annunzio, a result that polling indicates makes the general election race more competitive.

Of note, Cook also switched Democratic U.S. Rep. Bob Etheridge’s 2nd Congressional District from “solid” Democrat to “likely” Democrat. That puts it in the same category as U.S. Rep. Heath Shuler’s 11th Congressional District in the western region of the state.

Etheridge and Shuler will probably hang on, but the switch adds a little more interest. And you never know what developments might change the dynamics of the race.

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More Spin on Wind Power

Posted by Daren Bakst at 2:12 PM

The Asheville Citizen-Times decided to run this timely article entitled "Poll finds support for WNC mountain wind turbines."

When was the poll conducted?  April.  The results have been around for months, yet the paper felt it was such a timely issue.

Maybe, just speculating here, the motivation has to do with the concern expressed in the article about how a wind power bill passed by the Senate is "languishing " in the House.

The newspaper uses the wind power extremists' talking points about how the Senate bill would limit wind turbines along the Ridge lines.  As I have discussed over and over, the Ridge Law prohibits wind turbines--this new bill would be creating a special exception to allow wind turbines.

This isn't good enough though for the extremists and Big Wind--they want 500-foot industrial turbines, and nothing short of that is good enough.

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Individual mandates don't work

Posted by Joseph Coletti at 2:09 PM

The number of people purchasing insurance for six months or less in Massachusetts nearly quintupled between 2006 and 2008 according to a new Massachusetts Division of Insurance report [PDF]. These are people who get sick, purchase insurance and dump it when they are done with their treatments. We can only guess how much it has grown in the last two years.

Not surprisingly, the Boston Globe reports, the costs are borne by those working for small employers - you know, the people who were supposed to pay less because of ObamaRomneyCare.

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Eminent Domain Amendment Passes House

Posted by Daren Bakst at 12:46 AM

Without a lot of fanfare, the NC House passed a constitutional amendment yesterday to address economic development takings.

Here's the relevant language:

"Private property shall not be taken by eminent domain except for a public use. Public use does not include the taking of property in order to convey an interest in the property for economic development. Just compensation shall be paid and, if demanded, shall be determined by a jury."

This language unlike last year's amendment won't expressly hurt property owners.  However, it probably won't be of much assistance either.  It could hurt to the extent that this is the one bite at the eminent domain reform apple. 

The government rarely uses "economic development" as the reason for taking private property.  Property taken to address blight and for other pretextual purposes that get around any prohibition on economic development takings won't be prevented.  Learn more about real eminent domain reform here.

This amendment could prove to be better than I suggest if a Court deems "public use" to really mean a true public use--this may be possible given that other sections of the NC Constitution expressly use the term "public purposes" and not "public use." This could suggest to a court reading this amendment that the intention was not to use "public purposes" or its sister-term "public benefit," both of which are very broad in scope and give the government significant power to take private property.

However, I wouldn't count on this because it is more likely that a court will interpret "public use" in the same manner as the U.S. Supreme Court.

Now the amendment goes to the Senate.

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Re: Unconstitutional welfare (SB 20)

Posted by Daren Bakst at 11:07 AM

As Rick pointed out, a legislative committee is expected to take up a bill (SB 20) that would expand taxpayer financing of campaigns to the treasurer's race.

Last week, the Senate heard loud and clear what the public thought about taxpayer financing.  Yet the House is about to ignore the will of the people and push this bill anyway.  As I explained last week, the very idea that the legislature would try and expand taxpayer financing is shocking.

This expansion of taxpayer financing is still unethical and illegal--nothing has changed in a week.  So, to sum up:

1) Some House members want to push an unethical bill that will force taxpayers to subsidize candidates they oppose.

2) These same legislators want to take your hard-earned dollars and give it to politicians for their own personal political use (i.e. political welfare).

3) The bill almost certainly is illegal.  The U.S. Supreme Court just three weeks ago blocked the use of matching funds (a central part of taxpayer financing that we also have in NC) from being issued in the Arizona elections.  This follows the Supreme Court's decision in a case called Davis v. FEC that likely spells the end to matching funds.  Even a leading proponent of taxpayer financing, Harvard law professor Larry Lessig, admitted that these matching funds will be struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court.

4) The public is outraged and vehemently opposes this action, yet these same legislators don't care.

Any wonder why there's no faith in the North Carolina legislature?  Pushing an unethical, illegal, and unpopular bill doesn't inspire much confidence.

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Today in History

Posted by Dr. Troy Kickler at 10:55 AM

Today in 1860 at Oxford Univeristy Museum, Anglican Bishop Samuel Wilberforce debated biologist T.H. Huxley concerning Charles Darwin's evolutionary theory.   Here is a link to a description of the Poole Bill and the evolution debate in North Carolina during the 1920s.  

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On the legislative agenda: Unconstitutional welfare for politicians

Posted by Rick Henderson at 10:37 AM

The House Election Law and Campaign Finance Reform Committee is set to meet at 1 p.m. today, and on the calendar is Senate Bill 20, Voter-Owned Elections.

The bill would expand the state's matching-funds system to include the state treasurer in the 2012 election.

As I wrote here, the bill (and anything else using matching funds or "triggers" to expand the state's campaign-finance scheme) is almost certainly a violation of the First Amendment. Check out my earlier story for the background.

And you may recall that last week, some fast action by grass-roots activist members of Americans for Prosperity killed a measure that would have added a lot more statewide races to the welfare rolls.

Even so, the clean-campaign crew is undeterred.

In poker, when you stay in a hand that you have no chance of winning -- one you can't even bluff your way through -- it's called throwing good money after bad.

Since S.B. 20 would certainly inspire a lawsuit, and it typically costs in the low- to mid-six figures to defend constitutional challenges in court, any lawmaker who votes for this bill is betting -- no, throwing away -- a half-million bucks of your tax dollars on a losing hand.

Is there enough common sense on Jones Street to know when to hold 'em, and know when to fold 'em?

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The Fattiest Food in North Carolina

Posted by Dr. Terry Stoops at 10:27 AM lists the 50 Fattiest Foods in the States.  For North Carolina, livermush, a dish with at least 30% pig liver and a mixture of pig head parts and cornmeal, is the winner.  Feel free to bring it up in casual conversation, e.g., "The state budget is a pile of rotten livermush."


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Eww — John Edwards still the party animal

Posted by John Hood at 10:06 AM

The New Republic’s Gabriel Sherman takes a look at what John Edwards has been doing here in North Carolina — and it doesn’t exactly reflect the time-tested strategy of rebuilding a public figure’s reputation after scandal. For example, here’s what happened at the West End Wine Bar in Durham:

A group of Duke public policy grad students had reserved the space to celebrate the end of the semester at a party they call “Prom.” Inside, a DJ mixed dance music, while a scrum of twentysomethings jostled for drinks. Edwards and his friends turned to leave. Matthew Jentgen, a 28-year-old environmental policy student collecting tickets at the door, furiously lobbied them to come inside. “I told him, ‘We’re public policy students, it’d be interesting to have you at the party,’” Jentgen recently recalled. “He was looking as if he was wondering if he wanted to come in or not.... I wore him down, because, eventually, they came in.”

Word that Edwards was at the door coursed through the crowd. Once he was inside, students came up to snap photos with him. One attendee recalled that he wore his wedding ring. Edwards lapped up the attention. “He was graciously taking pictures for thirty minutes,” Jentgen says. Not everyone was thrilled, though. “Some people there had worked on his campaign and were still excited to see him,” Jentgen recalls. “Others, obviously, were not.”

Edwards stayed for two hours, leaving around midnight. He drank white wine and light beer, according to multiple attendees. After a while, Edwards made his way to the dance floor. “He was kind of uncomfortably dancing,” Jentgen says. “He was just happy to be with people who weren’t going to judge him.” Edwards cut loose, dancing to everything from salsa to Wreckx-n-Effect’s 1992 rap hit “Rump Shaker.”

Congratulations — you now have a wonderful mental image with which to face your Wednesday morning.

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Latest dispatches from the campaign trail

Posted by David N. Bass at 09:54 AM

  • N.C. GOP Chairman Tom Fetzer accuses Gov. Bev Perdue of colluding with Board of Elections officials on campaign finance probe.

  • floats the idea that racism is involved in a congressional ethics probe into North Carolina U.S. Rep. Mel Watt and other black lawmakers.

  • Former GOP gubernatorial candidate Pat McCrory endorses Democratic state Sen. Ellie Kinnaird’s (of Carrboro) Republican opponent, Ryan Hilliard.

  • Former state Rep. Cary Allred, a Republican, is arrested for DWI in Alamance County.

  • While you’re following N.C. politics, be sure to get a Cheerwine-flavored Krispy Kreme doughnut.

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More spending, more pride

Posted by Joseph Coletti at 09:47 AM

"There's not enough money for anyone down here to be proud of," noted Senate Majority Leader Martin Nesbitt, D-Buncombe.

That's from a Charlotte Observer editorial that called the $20.6 billion spending plan that leaves a $3.4 billion hole next year a "tough" budget. John Hood is more accurate in calling it a placeholder.

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Gingrich discusses the Declaration of Independence

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 09:46 AM

As we approach Independence Day, former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich uses his latest Human Events column to discuss the ongoing importance of the 234-year-old Declaration of Independence. 

The Declaration of Independence was intended to be an official statement explaining why the 13 American colonies had declared their independence from Great Britain.  In the years following its passage, however, this statement of principles about the rights of man grew to mean much more. 

America became the only country in history founded, as Leo Strauss explained, “in explicit opposition to Machiavellian principles,” by which he meant crass, power politics.  Instead, America was founded on a set of clearly expressed “self-evident” truths.  Thomas Jefferson said the Declaration was “intended to be an expression of the American mind,” and indeed, no document since has so succinctly and so eloquently spelled out the spirit of America.

Our country has evolved out of the timeless truths expressed in the Declaration of Independence to develop a distinct character and set of values that distinguishes us from even other Western democracies.

Follow the link to read Gingrich's take on the phrases "all men are created equal" and the "pursuit of happiness."

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New Carolina Journal Online features

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 07:01 AM

The latest Carolina Journal Online exclusive features Jim Stegall's report on state education officials' embrace of federal curriculum standards.

John Hood's Daily Journal explains that the state budget headed for a final vote today fails to prepare North Carolina adequately for a $3 billion shortfall next year.

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